Sherri and Kevin Kukuchka (above) welcome those looking to plant a little piece of heaven in their own backyards to visit Creekside Gardens at 4 Village Lane, Tunkhannock, where the possibilities are only limited by your imagination.
Photos and story by Rick Hiduk
(also published in Living Susquehanna/Wyoming County magazine)
A tour through the retail store, greenhouses, gardens, pathways and other outbuildings at Creekside Gardens south of Tunkhannock is mood altering, to say the least. One could hardly meander past the numerous water features, tropical house plants, blooms of every imaginable color, whimsical decorations, and hand-written folky messages without feeling a sense of serenity and reflection. On a regular basis, patrons are invited to partake in events that inspire creativity and a hands-on approach to nature.
While this unique combination of comfort, beauty and activity is indeed planned for the enjoyment of guests, Creekside Gardens is actually an experiment that took root in the minds of owners Kevin and Sherri Kukuchka and continues to grow. All puns intended, Sherri happily tells people that Kevin “transplanted” her to the Tunkhannock area from Phillipsburg, NJ. The property off SR 29 has been a part of Kevin’s life since he was a child, and the focus there has always been agriculture and nature. But the operations on the land have evolved through the years from traditional farming to a sort of landscape theme park.
Kevin remembers selling corn planted by his father at a roadside stand when the property was primarily fields abutting the residential part of old Eatonville. Sometime, the fields were planted instead with hay. He originally went to Wilkes University to study business, but the need for a summer job led him to Stony Mountain Garden Center and a bit of an epiphany. Not only did he like working with plants, he found that he really enjoyed the retail end of the business and working with owners Bo and Maggie Cartwright. He switched his course of study to Landscape Design and Nursery Management at the Pennsylvania College of Technology at Williamsport, where he met Sherri.
“I was one of few girls among a lot of guys,” Sherri recalled of school and meeting Kevin. “We became friends, and here we are.”
Turning the hay and cornfields in Eaton Township over for nursery plants like viburnums and eastern red buds was a natural progression, Kevin noted. They started a landscaping a retail business at the same time.
“It was kind of like a stockyard, but landscaping was driving it,” said Sherri. They started installing water gardens and selling water garden supplies at a gift shop along the highway.
It didn’t take too long before both of them started to feel that they were doing too much. Installation was time consuming in that it was taking time from them that they preferred to spend with people. In 2011, they built the large structure along Village Lane that has become the hub of their business.
“We knew that we were putting more stake into the retail end of it,” Kevin stated. They ceased installations altogether. “As we are getting older, it’s nice to have a smaller focus.”
The focus may be smaller, but the range of supplies and activities Creekside Gardens offers has grown. The Kukuchkas started staging events associated with their products, the first of them being the annual release of butterflies from their onsite Butterfly House. They conducted a terrarium workshop in February and started a farmers market last year that will return on Saturdays starting June 16. About once per month in the summer, Creekside Gardens hosts Food Truck Friday with live music. The butterfly release takes place around Labor Day weekend and is timed with the migration of Monarch butterflies through the area.
Creekside Gardens champions the Monarch because it is endangered and has a variety of plants in stock that that attract butterflies. There are also more than 100 varieties of butterflies in the House, which is open daily from June 16 into the fall, weather permitting.
“People like to come here, and we like the community feel of events,” said Kevin.
“I like that people come here and have an experience and get away from their technologies,” Sherri added. “Our staff has a love for horticulture, and people can feel that.
In addition to flowers, house plants, and a large variety of pots and planters, Creekside Gardens still sells pond supplies and landscaping plants. They stock shrubs and trees in a variety of sizes, Kevin noted, “because some people want the instant gratification of having a big tree, and other people like to watch it grow.”
Sherri sees an encouraging trend among millennials who are maintaining small gardens and getting children involved. That’s why more of the activities at Creekside Gardens are geared toward multiple generations.
“Plants give off energy,” Sherri offered as a general summary of why she and Kevin enjoy coming to work and why the business is successful. “We need that.”
Interested readers can keep up with Creekside Gardens events by following the business on Facebook or logging on to www.CreeksideGardens.com.
Two feathered friends keep their eyes on visitors to the retail center.
In indoor stream that stops just short of the floor is just part of the magic that awaits patrons of Creekside Gardens.
Handwritten signs welcome guests into the retail center and greenhouses.
The retail center, constructed in 2011, changed the face and scope of Creekside Gardens forever.